KAITAIA, 40km west of Mangonui, is the Far North’s largest commercial centre, situated near the junction of the two main routes north. It makes a convenient base for some of the best trips to Cape Reinga and Ninety Mile Beach, far preferable to the longer trips from the Bay of Islands. As a farming service town you’d expect there’d be little to detain you, but these days Kaitaia boasts a rather fine museum, built in 2011. If you have your own transport, however, you might want to base yourself at the magnificent beach in nearby Ahipara, to sand-toboggan the giant dunes, surf or explore the old gumfields.

Brief history

A Maori village already flourished at Kaitaia when the first missionary, Joseph Matthews, came looking for a site in 1832. The protection of the mission encouraged European pastoralists to establish themselves here, but by the 1880s they found themselves swamped by the gum diggers who had come to plunder the underground deposits around Lake Ohia and Ahipara. Many early arrivals were young Croats fleeing tough conditions in what was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, though the only evidence of this is a Serbo-Croat welcome sign at the entrance to town, and a cultural society that holds a traditional dance each year.

Book through Rough Guides’ trusted travel partners

New Zealand features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

A postcard from New Zealand: where Maori culture is making waves

A postcard from New Zealand: where Maori culture is making waves

Despite centuries of colonialism that have had a devastating effect on the traditional indigenous way of life, Maori culture in New Zealand is experiencing a re…

26 Mar 2018 • Rachel Mills local_activity Special feature
Quiz: where should you go for an adventure in New Zealand?

Quiz: where should you go for an adventure in New Zealand?

With spectacular mountains, incredible lakes and sprawling national parks, New Zealand makes for the adventure of a lifetime. The locals call it “Godzone” (…

15 Dec 2017 • Aimee White help Quiz
Everything you need to know about backpacking New Zealand

Everything you need to know about backpacking New Zealand

New Zealand’s craggy coastline and beautiful national parks beg to be explored. The scenery gets more spectacular around every corner, with beaches, vineyards…

21 Nov 2017 • Rachel Mills insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right